Fidgeting can off-set the unhealthy effects of sitting for long periods and may even help you live longer, research co-led by the University of Leeds has shown.
Scientists who analysed data on more than 12,700 British women found that too much time spent sitting still increased the risk of dying.
But the association did not apply to participants who rated themselves as “moderately or very” fidgety - even those who sat for long periods.
Professor Janet Cade, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds, who co-led the study, said: “While further research is needed, the findings raise questions about whether the negative associations with fidgeting, such as rudeness or lack of concentration, should persist if such simple movements are beneficial for our health.”
Even among adults who are physically active it is possible to spend up to 15 hours a day sitting down, said the researchers.
Breaks in sitting time have previously been shown to improve markers of good health, such as Body Mass Index (BMI) and glucose and insulin responses.
The researchers questioned participants in the UK Women’s Cohort Study about their average daily sitting time and fidgeting levels, and collected information about physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption.
Compared with sitting for less than five hours a day, remaining seated for seven or more hours was associated with a 30% increased risk of death from any cause - but only for women in the low fidgeting group.
Long sitting time did not affect the mortality risk of middle and high-range fidgeters.
The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Co-author Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, from University College London, said: “Our results support the suggestion that it’s best to avoid sitting still for long periods of time, and even fidgeting may offer enough of a break to make a difference.”